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Editorial

Komen's untimely 'cure'

Severing ties with Planned Parenthood smacks of political expediency, and costs it donors.

February 03, 2012
  • Breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Lueke, who was 99 at the time, is honored at the 2009 Orange County Race for the Cure, an annual fundraising event for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Some longtime Komen supporters said they would break with the foundation because of its Planned Parenthood decision.
Breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Lueke, who was 99 at the time, is honored… (Los Angeles Times )

The Susan G. Komen for the Cureorganization made a premature and unfortunate decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood, a move that already appears to be coming back to haunt the breast cancer-fighting foundation.

As a private nonprofit, of course, Komen has every right to decide how to spend its money. Until now, it has given Planned Parenthood, which is better known as a provider of contraception and abortions, more than $500,000 a year to perform breast exams and provide related outreach for low-income women, as well as referrals for mammograms.

Komen has been pressured for some time by antiabortion activists to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood, but Komen officials insist their decision was nonpolitical and prompted only by a new policy that requires them not to fund organizations that are being investigated by the government. Planned Parenthood, which has been the target of repeated congressional attacks that have unsuccessfully sought to cut off its federal funding, is under investigation to determine whether it spent taxpayer funds on abortions. But that inquiry is a politically motivated move launched by an antiabortion Republican congressman — and similar probes have found nothing amiss. Komen's willingness to end its grants even though there's no evidence so far of wrongdoing reflects poorly on the cancer foundation.

By not standing up to antiabortionists, Komen's leaders might end up doing more harm to themselves than to Planned Parenthood. Within a day, donations from outraged feminists to the family-planning provider had made up almost all of what it gets from Komen in a year. Meanwhile, some people who describe themselves as former supporters of Komen have vowed never to donate again. Antiabortionists will no doubt counter by increasing their financial support for Komen, but this kind of divisiveness seldom works out well for a supposedly noncontroversial charity. Many abortion rights advocates have supported Komen over the years, and they're not pleased by the foundation's decision. But antiabortion advocates never donated to Planned Parenthood; it loses no part of its donor base.

The Komen decision will probably prompt more attacks on Planned Parenthood, which has long provided low-cost medical care to women in need. If Komen loses a significant portion of its donor base, funding for breast cancer research and treatment will be affected, and for a long time Komen's name will be connected more with ugly politics than with pink ribbons. In the end, it's women in need of medical care who stand to lose the most.

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